Migration Realpolitik with Humanity

Migration is one of the most controversial political issues in many countries. It ranks on the list of citizens’ concerns. More than 258 million people live outside their countries of birth. Over 65 million are refugees.

Can we accept all those who want to live with us and enjoy better lives, or just a limited number of migrants?
What kind of arrangements have proved successful in which countries?

Africa’s population will grow particularly rapidly and the migration pressure on prosperous Europe will thus increase: Nigeria from a population of 206 million in 2017 to 791 million in 2100 and the Republic of Congo from 81 million to 246 million over the same period. Ethiopia from 103 million to 223 million. Egypt from 96 million to 199 million. Tanzania from 54 million to 186 million. In Ethiopia, I visited the Uni- ted Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2019. A new report on migration in Africa was being prepared there. Most young Africans leave their homeland because they are dissatisfied with corrupt politics and see no prospects at home. Not the poorest ones leave. Rather, young men from large families, for whom the relatives collect high trafficking costs of $2000 to $5000. Yong men are their hope and must pay back everything. Migration is about escape from despair and hope for the future, mostly not about persecution.

Can we save the whole world? That would be commendable and warm our hearts and guilty conscience being the winners of prosperity.

First, if too many refugees come to a foreign country at the same time, it is bound to exceed the capacity of providing social benefits, housing, jobs and ultimately full integration. The number of refugees is the decisive factor. That is a fact. No country can act as the Good Samaritan of the entire world. “Our heart is wide, but our opportunities are finite,” remarked the former German Federal President Joachim Gauck.

Secondly, moreover, the heart’s original home can never be replaced by the new one. All my refugee friends want to return to their old home and prefer to live there, rather than in the West, in dignity and in their culture. The best way we can support these poor people is to help make their homeland worth living in and to actively fight the causes of flight at the root.

What can be done?

A far-sighted refugee policy with heart and mind can effectively help only some in the West and most in their own home- land. “Mission Future” has presented a comprehensive 363-page study entitled Migration Realpolitik with Humanity with best practices from eleven countries (Canada, United States of America, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Uganda, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Australia and New Zealand). Our book makes many concrete suggestions as to how migration could be organised more humanely and effectively in the future and how the interests of the native population and im- migrants could be balanced. Our result: We need a fresh dual strategy of Migration Realpolitik and Humanity. Humanity without realism will fail, but so will realism without humanity. Emotional and ideological pros and cons should give way to balanced rational perspectives, otherwise intolerance and populism will prevail.

The concept of migration encompasses many, very different groups, so there can be not one “migration policy”, but instead tailored regulations for individual groups. Sought-after experts from abroad must be treated differently than economic refugees without a right of residence or asylum seekers. Differentiations are therefore necessary.

The comprehensive global framework for refugees is determined by two United Nations agreements: The “Convention relating to the Status of Refugees” was adopted on July 28, 1951 as the Geneva Refugee Convention. It was limited to flight and expulsion within Europe due to events occurring before the Convention came into force. On January 31, 1967, the Protocol on the Status of Refugees extended the application of the Convention to the new global refugee flows. To date, it has been recognized by 149 states. The United Nation Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) was signed by a majority of 152 UN member states and adopted by the General Assembly on 19 December 2018. According to 15b (“a non-legally bin- ding cooperative framework”) and 15c: (“reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration”), it is an internationally non-binding regulation, which therefore requires concrete national implementation.

How could a fresh Migration Realpolitik with Humanity be designed?


  1. Migration policy should be based on clear facts, national interests, the dignity of all stakeholders, including the local population, and seek creative solutions based on global best practices. We need a balanced view and fact-based discussions of the pros and cons. Important in this process are creativity, flexibility, effectiveness as well as a speedy implementation and necessary readjustment without ideological blinkers and prejudices. We need a Migration Realpolitik with Humanity.
  2. Migration can have positive effects if it creates additional skilled labour. It can be a burden if too many come into the country at the same time without sufficient qualifications. A positive example: 6,500 German doctors work in Switzerland, where they earn considerably more. Their training has cost the taxpayer 250,000 euros per person. Switzerland has thus imported human capital worth 1.9 billion Swiss francs. On the other hand, low-skilled workers are a burden on the economy. In August 2018, 6.6 percent of the total population in Germany received basic welfare benefits under Hartz IV, as opposed to 63.7 percent of the 1.7 million refugees. At that time, 361,000 refugees were employed mostly as low-paid unskilled laborers.
  3. Each country needs tailored and realistic concepts for different target groups, appropriate laws, financing, quotas as well as cost-benefit calculations. To achieve this goal, it must seek and emulate role models from all over the world. Canada’s immigration policy has proven its worth and should be adopted as far as possible. There need to be detailed migration laws as well as a National Migration Report with long-term goals.
  4. Integration is always a two-way street It must involve open interaction between migrants and the native population. 
  5. A special Minister for Migration and Integration would give the issue weight in the Cabinet. A Minister for Tolerance would be responsible for ensuring mutual respect between immigrants and the local population, thus building understanding and trust over the years.
  6. An Annual Report on Migration by the Minister for Migration, responsible for this area, should highlight the trends, costs and problems and should be discussed annually in parliament.
  7. Migrants must adapt to the cultural customs of their new home country. The key to this is education, especially for children.
  8. Orderly immigration requires clear rules for the admission of migrants and refugees, realistic accommodation quotas as well as safeguarding external borders.
  9. The safe migration routes required by the UN should be regulated by issuing entry visas at the embassies of the countries of entry in the migrants’ home countries. These visas should be based on need and accommodation capacity, in order to avoid subsequent disappointments and deportations. If the number of possible visas exceeds the number of applicants, a points system, as in Canada, or a raffle, as with the American green card, seems the fairest solution for all concerned.
  10. Wealthy countries cannot take in everyone who wants to live and work there. Otherwise, they would destroy their cultural identity. The internal balance of nations is objectively endangered if too many migrants from too remote cultures are admitted. This is the experience of all countries, whether in Europe, Africa or Asia. In other words, it would also apply if one million Christian Americans emigrate to Japan within a year or one million Swedes to Tunisia. This may be regrettable, but all countries are culturally sensitive entities with limited possibilities in the realms of administration, social welfare, housing or jobs. As a basic rule, one migrants per one thousand inhabitants can be admitted without major problems over a period of one year, but not more. If too many arrive, there is a risk of administrative chaos, supply shortages, frustration and negative reactions from both locals and other migrants. The repatriation of rejected applicants also creates a lot of frustration among migrants. The new multi- cultural society would risk breaking apart and radicals would benefit from this polarisation. Excessive reaction, nationalism and extremism would possibly emerge, further exacerbating the problem. Foreign citizens living in the admitting country would also suffer. General dissatisfaction and disillusionment could be the likely result. Moderation, detailed planning and control are therefore indispensable elements of good migration policy.
  11. Far too often people forget that a home is important for all human beings. Migration, handled moderately, is part of a globalised world, but a mass exodus would result in losing the beloved homeland and ethnic roots. Therefore, we should help people to live happily in their home country. Tackling the causes of migration is a very arduous and long-term task. Nevertheless, we must try hard.
  12. Very important is the containment of wars through a more effective foreign and security policy World 4.0.
  13. UNHCR should receive much more support.
  14. In addition, in the developing countries, above all, we need birth control, good governance and more jobs for the many young people, a Mission Future in Africa, Asia, Central and South America.

The U.S. could help Central and South America with a large development program and the European Union could assist Africa with a grand master plan. So far, there is too much talk and too little action.

Priority should be given to supporting young small entrepreneurs and forward-looking politicians, a new responsibility elite of shapers and decision makers in these countries. Sponsorship and exchange programmes between Western countries and developing countries could help as well.


If you want to learn more about Mission Future you can find our 600 pages book with 200 concrete reform propsals here.